“Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” Song of songs 2:12 (Picture painted by Esther from Living Well hospitality team)
I recognise that at this time I am very fortunate to have a garden, but watching Countryfile on TV at the weekend reminded me again how beautiful the world that God designed for us to live in is. Currently I am thrilled to wake to the robins calling to each other across and within my garden. (A pleasant respite from the noise I usually hear of herring gulls – I live near the sea!) As I have been grateful for gardens and all that God has created for our enjoyment, I have been drawn to 1 Corinthians 3:5-9
“Who is Apollos, really? Or who is Paul? Aren’t we both just servants through whom you believed our message? Aren’t each of us doing the ministry the Lord has assigned to us? I was the one who planted the church and Apollos came and cared for it, but it was God who caused it to grow. This means the one who plants is not anybody special, nor the one who waters, for God is the one who brings the supernatural growth. Now, the one who plants and the one who waters are equally important and on the same team, but each will be rewarded for his own work. We are co-workers with God and you are God’s cultivated garden, the house he is building.”
I have found gardening helpful at this time and realise there are many analogies between seeing a garden develop and how God works among his people in the church. Much of the Bible was written within a culture that was familiar with agriculture. One of the lessons that I have learned is a small investment in preparing the ground and planting a seed can have big impacts later on. What surprised me is that plants grew! While plants in the garden are aided by good soil preparation, water and care, ultimately a plant’s growth is dependent on God who sustains and allows the right conditions to happen. Christians growing in the church also follow a similar pattern. Paul appealed to this farming analogy in the passage above. God uses individuals with specific gifts to grow people spiritually in the church. In the case of the Corinthians, God had used Paul to preach the gospel to the Corinthians and they had accepted. After Paul was called elsewhere, Apollos helped the fledgling church to grow and understand the gospel even deeper. In his letter, Paul was quick to remind the church that he and Apollos were only workers in the field. Christ was the one who made them grow. God has placed many people in the church and outside our local church to help us grow. Our leaders and leadership teams are called to encourage growth, but God calls the people in the church to grow. In the same way the type of soil, the watering and the sunlight matter for plants, God cares how the people in the church are maintained and grown. Can I encourage us to take some time to pray for the leaders in our churches who keep watch over our spiritual health. At this time, pray for Bishop Rose and the senior staff team as they discern the way forward for us. Let us pray that this time of extended retreat is used by us fruitfully to put down deep roots and allow ourselves to be transformed and moulded into the “flowers” God intends us to be. Our prayer for you from Living Well, is that God will continue to grow His garden and that each of us will know our place in that.
Assistant Chaplain at Living Well